Local politics dominate election

Hot and heavy local politics will take the stage Tuesday when polling places open in Island County.

National and state-wide races will not be on the ballot, but judging by local campaigns there should be plenty to draw voters to the polling places.

In Island County, incumbent Commissioner Bill Thorn, a Democrat, is fighting off a challenge from Republican Bill Byrd. Other incumbents also face hearty challenges. Treasurer Maxine Sauter, a Republican, is opposed by Democrat Linda Riffe, Democrat Prosecutor Greg Banks is battling Republican Kelly Barlean, and appointed Clerk Jan Koetje, a Republican, is being tested by Democrat Sharon Franzen.

For the Washington State House of Representatives from District 10, incumbent Republican Barry Sehlin, R-Oak Harbor, has no challenger. But for the open position, Democrat Eron Berg from LaConner and Oak Harbor Republican Barbara Bailey are battling it out, with added competition from Libertarian Brett Wilhelm.

The only race with national implications is for U.S. House of Representatives from the Second District where first-term incumbent Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Arlington, is opposed by Republican Norma Smith from South Whidbey Island.

Island County voters will join their peers statewide in passing judgment on several ballot measures:

l Initiative 776 would require license tab fees to be $30 per year for motor vehicles, including light trucks. Certain local option vehicle excise taxes and fees used for roads and transit would be appealed.

l Initiative 790 concerns the retirement system for law enforcement and fire department personnel, and would assure their ranks are better represented on the board of trustees which oversees benefits.

l Referendum 53 concerns unemployment insurance, and would revise laws for employers.

l Referendum 51 asks voters to increase taxes, including gasoline and trucking fees, to raise money for public transportation improvements.

l House Joint Resolution 4220 is a proposal from the Legislature to amend the constitution on fire protection tax levies, allowing fire districts to submit levies up to four years or, in the case of construction, up to six years, rather than annually.

The Whidbey News-Times has written extensively about the local political races. Many of the stories are on the Web at Other information is available in the Washington State and Island County voters pamphlets available in libraries or at the Island County Auditor’s Office in Coupeville. The Secretary of State’s voter information hotline is 1-800-448-4881, and the Web site is

Polling places will be open Tuesday, Nov. 5 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information call the Island County Auditor’s Office, Elections Dept., at 679-7366.

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